This is part 2 of GSKBO’s half term report. Now we look at the teams sitting outside the play-offs and offer our own verdict on how their season has gone.
There is still a long way to go and as Doosan Bears showed in 2017, it doesn’t matter how far back you are at this point of the season. Every team in the KBO is capable is going on a tear and roaring back into play-off contention. The Asia Games break, for 3 weeks in August and September, could potentially kill the momentum of those at the top.
6. Nexen Heroes. 38-40-0. 14 GB.
The Heroes shocked the league by announcing the signing of Eric Hacker, formerly of NC Dinos, until the end of the season. Hacker is a proven KBO stalwart, surprisingly jettisoned by NC last fall and not picked up elsewhere. Nexen swooped when Esmil Rogers got injured, and have collected Hacker for an absolute steal; $300,000 for the rest of the season.
And injuries have been key to explaining why Nexen are sitting outside the top 5. They’ve suffered more than anyone with, for example, Seo Geon-chang, Park Byeong-ho, Kim Ha-seong and Lee Jong-hu, all missing at some point. Getting these guys back to offer run support for Jake Brigham (3-5 in 16 starts) and Hacker is crucial. Meanwhile, Nexen could do with spending some time out of the media for the wrong reasons!
Verdict: C. Brigham is confident they’ll be okay. I fancy them to pip SK to the last play-off spot.
7. Lotte Giants. 33-38-2. 15.5 GB.
The season started in wretched fashion, picked up for a bit, collapsed again, and now has stabilized, although they are in a thoroughly unsatisfactory position. There’s a ton of impressive batting quality and yet they’re weak at catcher, shortstop and third. This is as lop-sided a roster as you’ll ever see.
Lotte are also a Lee Dae-ho injury from chaos. Lee has a 0.348/0.630/0.423 slash with 20 home runs, 68 RBIs and 0 stolen bases (okay, that’s not fair). Son A-seop is brilliant, as usual, although it probably highlights the problem with their lower order than Son has fewer RBIs now than Shin Bon-gi, despite having about 70 more plate appearances. The Giants’ team ERA is 5.12, with only 11 saves (joint fewest). But they do top the league in 2 areas: blown saves and errors.
Verdict: D. They will not be making the play-offs this term, unless there are drastic improvements.
8. Samsung Lions. 34-42-1. 17 GB.
A week or so ago, Samsung threatened to disturb the top 6 but fell away again. Samsung are okay with the bat, but are last for home runs and slugging. Lee Seung-yeop is still a massive hole in their line up. Darin Ruf has 15 homers, which is respectable, but they need a lot more.
Pitching, though, has been an absolute disaster. A 5.59 team ERA is horrible, and yet they’re one of the most likely teams to record a save in the 9th. They give up a lot of home runs (102), walks (237) and HBP (60). These stats firmly place them among-st the worst. Sad to see a great veteran like Yoo Seung-hwan struggle towards the end of his career.
Verdict: C. They are placed where many would have expected. Their pitching isn’t strong enough to challenge any further than 7th.
9. kt wiz. 29-46-1. 21.5 GB.
After only ever finishing 10th in their short KBO lifespan, 9th was a realistic target at the outset because there were plenty of clubs we thought would struggle. No-one expected one of those to be NC Dinos, but it is very important for kt to finish above 10th, and hopefully with a better record than last season.
Admittedly, the play-offs are beyond them which is a minor disappointment given some of the class they possess. They have good batters in Hwang Jae-kyun, Mel Rojas Junior, Yoon Suk-min and Park Gyeong-su, but none of them are really dominating now. Kang Baek-ho has a good chance of being rookie of the year. Their pitching staff includes Dustin Nippert (5-4, 4.86 ERA) and Ryan Feierabend (1-5, 4.22 ERA) with plenty of no decisions.
Verdict: C. Their fight looks to be staying in 9th. It takes time to build a new roster from scratch, hopefully they continue to build for next season.
10. NC Dinos. 27-49-0. 24 GB.
With half the season done, NC are one loss shy of 50. They have a .355 winning percentage, and have already parted ways with their revered manager, Kim Gyeong-mun. From usually possessing the best bullpen in the league and the best performing foreign trio, they are rooted to the bottom, beyond despair.
What has gone wrong? NC were in decline from August last season. They fell into the play-offs and then showed their experience by squeezing past SK Wyverns and Lotte Giants before Doosan ended their charge. Their form from August has continued and now they have the weakest bullpen in the league. After years of challenging at the top, so soon after creation, life looks stale in Masan, They need changes.
Here’s a stat. NC have the same number of blown saves now (11) as they did in all of 2017. They had 13 the year before, and 11 before that. Extraordinary. The bottom 2 in the KBO are the league’s expansion teams. Is there enough (pitching especially) quality to satisfy a 10 team league?
Verdict: F. I had NC for 4th or 5th. This season has been a nightmare.